'The best friend Medicare ever had'?: Policy narratives and changes in Coalition health policy

Abstract

As Leader of the Opposition in 1987, the current Prime Minister of Australia John Howard, stated unequivocally that he would dismantle Medicare at his first opportunity.

By April 2000, the Health Minister in a Howard-led government proudly proclaimed to the Australian Parliament the Coalition was 'the best friend Medicare ever had'. Such a shift in ideology and policy position appears remarkable, overturning more than 60 years of conservative opposition to a universal, publicly funded, health care system.

This paper traces the shift from the lead-up to the 1996 election until 2000, interrogating official policy texts to map how the Coalition reconfigured its own policy narrative about the Australian health care system. This paper argues that in order to understand contemporary reforms to the health care system, we must consider the way in which those reforms provide solutions to discursively, rather than objectively constructed, policy problems.

Authors

Amanda Elliot
University of Sydney, NSW

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Keywords

health policy, Medicare, private health insurance, social policy, sociology

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